Is Metrolink Up to the Job? Train Crash Raises Doubts

AWOL execs slammed in aftermath of worst crash in decades
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2008 2:05 PM CDT
An honor guard stands as the body of a Los Angeles Police Department Officer who was killed in the crash of a MetroLink train is carried from the wreckage in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles .   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
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(Newser) – The country's deadliest train crash in decades has focused attention on mass transit carrier Metrolink, which operates on a shoestring budget and has many wondering whether it's up to the job, the Los Angeles Times reports. Five Southern California counties chip in to run the system, set up with relatively few employees to be light on expenses and low on bureaucracy. That means its board must grapple with managing a maze of subcontracts as well as the challenges of running the sprawling system.

Transport experts say that Metrolink—which has one of the highest fatality rates of any rail system in the nation—is doing what it can on safety, but bad luck has been worsened by the need to share the rails with freight trains and a lack of funding. Its board, criticized for being AWOL in the wake of the crash, admits lacking in expertise. "It looks like we didn't have as much knowledge as we should have had," the chairman said. "I know I didn't."